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Inductive Fallacy Study Guide

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Updated on Apr 25, 2014

Lesson Summary

All generalizations are false, including this one.

Mark Twain, American author and humorist (1835–1910)

As with deductive reasoning, an inductive argument that has poor reasoning to support its conclusion is a fallacy. An inductive fallacy has either two premises that don't support its conclusion, or a conclusion that doesn't fit the premises. In this lesson, you'll learn how to spot some common logical fallacies so you're not taken in by their faulty logic.

The conclusion drawn in an inductive argument is only as good as the quantity and quality of its premises. There are many ways to create a strong inductive argument, and just as many ways to create a weak one. It's important to understand the different logical fallacies that can make an argument weak, so you'll know one when you see or hear them, and avoid using them yourself.

Chicken-and-Egg Fallacy

"Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" That age-old question is used to classify problems for which there are no easy answers. What does that have to do with inductive arguments? If you're creating a logical argument, using two events, you can't take it for granted that because the two things regularly happen together, one causes the other. That's the chicken-and-egg fallacy. It follows this general form:

  1. A and B regularly occur together.
  2. Therefore, A is the cause of B.

This fallacy assumes that one event must cause another just because the events occur together. The assumption is based on inadequate justification; there is not enough evidence to draw the causal conclusion.

A common example of chicken-and-egg fallacy is the relationship between TV/movie violence and real-life violent behavior. Many people believe that a person's violent behavior is the result of watching TV/ movie violence. Other people contend that if someone is a violent person, he or she will create, watch, and enjoy violent programming. So, does TV/movie violence cause real-life violence, or vice versa? Or is there no causal relationship between the two? The simple fact is that some people are violent, and some entertaining TV shows and movies contain violence. But there is not enough evidence to assert a connection, since many people watch violent TV shows/movies and never become violent themselves.

How can you avoid falling into the chicken-andegg fallacy? Since it means drawing a conclusion without enough evidence presented to show any cause-and-effect relationship, you can avoid it by paying careful attention to the sequence of events. If A happens after B, A can't possibly cause B. Ask yourself if there's anything else that could have been the cause. Think about the evidence presented. Is it enough to draw the conclusion?

Examples

  • Many smokers have lung cancer. Lung cancer causes people to smoke.
  • You can't get a job unless you have experience. You can't get experience unless someone gives you a job!
  • Last night I had a fever. This morning, I have a cold and a fever. The fever caused the cold.
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